Read the previous chapters here
Aurora breathed out slowly, her eyes looking around the room curiously.
“We could have used the training room, it has more equipment”
Aurora felt the smirk on his face as if it radiated towards her.
“The equipment I need is in this room, Quesios and I worked on this together”
This put her on high alert instantly. If both Nick and Quesios had designed a room for her training, it was bound to have numerous layers of obstacles. She looked at the man who had been circling her like a vulture, keeping his distance.
He appeared to be walking normally, but to the eye that was accustomed to watching soldiers train, the footfalls of his feet sounded precise, calculated. He wasn’t just circling her, he was prowling. At any moment, he would..
The sound of the swords meeting was so loud, she was sure everyone in the city had heard it. Nick had downgraded himself to a Cyan Single blade sword instead of his usual double edged one for her training.
” I am taller than you, to make use of my height, I will keep swinging my sword”
The clang of the swords free louder as Nick swung repeatedly, pushing Aurora down as she tried to block his blows.
She watched her sword chip and Nick took a leap back.
“If you try to block my blows with the edge of your sword, you’ll end up chipping off pieces of it. Block it with..”
Seeing her chance, she attacked immediately, swinging from the down up.
“The flat”, he concluded as he neatly blocked her sword.
“Speed.. That’s another thing you have to be very careful of.
As far as possible, try never to remain in one position for too long, never longer than three seconds. That’s enough time for your arms to get tired.”
As realization struck her, he propelled her down with his strength and caused her to lose balance, landing flat on her back.
“Posture.. Always make sure your knees are in a position to make a run for it if the attack fails. Even when swinging your sword, remember this rule. If your opponent strikes you on the ground”
He raised his sword and struck the ground where she had been a second ago.
“Roll”, he finished, smiling as she looked at him as if he was the worst person on Earth as she scrambled up.
Clang, this time she hadn’t been prepared, flung back a little, putting her off balance when he struck next.
Even so, she kept jumping backwards, little by little, until suddenly she jumped to the right and blocked him with the flat, pushing back at him and successfully throwing him off balance for a moment.
The next moment, she was looking up at his smirking face from the ground.
“Never misjudge your opponent. Never hurry, swords are to be handled with patience.”
She nodded, panting, waiting for him to conclude.
“I’ll see you in half an hour” was all she got before he turned and walked out, presumably towards the library.
“She’s getting stronger”, he heard her say as he plopped himself down in front of the huge screen that took up most of Quesios’ room, watching Aurora dematerialise her sword and lean against the wall.
“She’s still not strong enough”, he bit back, and heard the most versatile warrior and Aurora’s ex-coach sigh.
“She learns fast, but I need to push her harder. We’re running out of time here”, Nick sank his head into his hands tiredly.
“When you run on time, it’s like running on the seconds hand while everyone else is on the hours hand, you seem to approach the deadline that much faster and you stand more risk of losing those who once stood beside you. I do not belong to this time, I have lost all those that I spent half my lifetime with and I stand the chance of losing everything I have, even today. But this time I wasn’t to be ready. I want everyone to be ready. I will not lose a second time!”
Nick’s fiery monologue slightly shook Peritia, and she realised how little they knew of Nick. She just nodded and turned a knob on the control panel that Quesios had integrated.
On Aurora’s end, the room had changed completely. Where the light floor had aided her footing, the sand now pulled her in. This was what Quesios had built, the perfect training room that could emulate even environmental conditions.
The door opened out of nowhere and her opponent stepped in.
“Where’s Nick?”, she asked aloud and her red eyed ex-trainer simply smiled.
“Controlling the environment” was the only thing she heard before Peritia attacked.
Sword. Long, thin, she was going for offense.
Aurora blocked with the flat of her sword and jumped back immediately.
“Good, you listened to Nick’s tips after all”
Aurora just concentrated on her next move. Swinging her sword from above, she cane down hard on Peritia, who was shorter than her, pushing with all her strength.
“ Dead “
Aurora felt the blade of a smaller knife on her belly. Peritia had switched her weapon to a short sword, her attack had fallen through thin air, instead of striking Peritia’s weapon, she had lost her balance, and her torso had been unguarded. All this had happened in a split second.
This is why Nick had sent her in the first place. Peritia may have been at a disadvantage because of her height but she had an arsenal of 119 weapons to chose from.
Aurora jumped back and assumed attack position again. This fight had only just begun.
Peritia struck again, Aurora blocked and jumped back, then flinched. The sand was causing her to lose balance faster. Jumps were not effective at all. She watched Peritia’s feet while fending off the attack, tge sand seemed to glimmer where she stood.
She hadn’t lost her balance even once, the sand had no effect on her. When Peritia stepped forward to attack, her eyed widened as the trick struck her. Lunging free of the attack, Aurora landed cleanly on her feet. A slight sheen of the light platform she created, visible near her feet.
“You picked that up well”, Peritia commented as she propelled herself forward for another attack, and this time Aurora met her sword, pushing just enough of her weight so as to not lose her balance but still keep pressure on Peritia’s sword so that she had to use both swords to hold her off. Until Peritia’s sword changed again, her dominant one regaining the broadsword form and the smaller one retaining it’s own.
Now strong enough to hold off Aurora’s attack with one sword, Peritia pulled out the short one to finish the fight.
Aurora saw it happen much slower than it probably did. Which is why she brought down one empty hand to protect her torso, the split second decision that was going to cause her a severe wound. Except it didn’t.
Peritia leapt back with a cry as soon as she felt her sword hit thin air where Aurora’s hand was, that was when she noticed the electric blue dagger that was clutched in the very same hand, dripping with blood. She looked down at her own arm to find the flesh singed and bleeding.
In the control room, Nick started in his seat. In one hand, Aurora’s Fire Orange Sword in her right hand contrasting with the electric blue dagger in her left. A dagger he recognised. Maya’s.
He turned back to the screen, and in the split second that he had lost track, Aurora had won the fight against a bewildered Peritia.
He turned around slowly to consult a white faced Arderine, who had not said a word before this development.
“Is this because of the transfusion?”, came the quiet question, almost on a hoarse whisper staring at Peritia’s bleeding arm on the screen and Nick could only nod.
“You have seen this kind of power before, my lady?”
Arderine met the shielded eyes of the man before her.
“Tvorish”, was what Aurora heard as soon as she burst into the room after leaving Peritia at the Saludom.
“Tvorish?”,she repeated, a little panicky from what had happened, looking from one to the other for answers. She hadn’t meant to hurt Peritia. She really hadn’t.
Glancing at Arderine, Nick got up and spread an old document over his desk. Leaning over, Aurora realised it was a map of some sort and she slowly traced her hand over the place marked as Celaver and then moved East at the land marked Tvor.
“The land of the forests”, she heard Nick say
“The entire land of Tvor is covered in forests and it is the home to many beings. When I was still in my time, talks were ongoing of an alliance between us and them.”
“What sort of ..beings?”, Aurora asked
“All sorts”, the answer this time came from Arderine, who pointed at the far Eastern edge of Tvor, “That’s where Castle Mayalo Donum is situated, among the mountains within the forest. That’s where the royal family lives. They wield the power to control the colour of light.”
This instantly peaked Aurora’s interest.
Nodding at Arderine, Nick continued the explanation
“The sort of power you wield is very dangerous. In your case, the conditions are against us. If we do not take caution, it might end up costing you your life, before we can even determine the location of the Living Waters. The Tvorians might be able to help. They have dealt with this kind of warfare for millennia.“, Nick paused uncertainly, as if wondering how to explain the rest.
“If that was all then we would already be on our way there. What obstructs us?”, Aurora asked hesitantly.
Arderine slowly traced out the area between the beginning of the forest to Luxsplendcastro on the map and raised her eyes to meet Aurora’s.
“The hills of Ammolofoi lie between us and Tvor. You should remember them. That’s where we found you for the first time.”
There was pin drop silence in the room as everyone looked at the map. The cursed dunes. The realm of the shadows.
“But that’s not all. If you could make it across the dunes, you would be at the Whispering Forest. Where even the shadows don’t dare to tread”
“Why?”, Aurora’s voice was getting smaller by the minute.
“Because of the creature that guards the borders – Aswangs.”
The ominous ring of the name belied the danger it hid. The silence felt like the calm before a very violent storm.